OPP Chorus Sings Together Again After Pandemic Break

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The band rehearses at the Salvation Army in Barrie every Wednesday night for two hours

After a long pandemic hiatus, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Choir resumed in-person rehearsals this week.

It is called OPP Chorus, but members and non-members of the organization are welcome to join. The choir is made up of community volunteers, including current and former civilian and uniformed members. The band rehearses at the Salvation Army in Barrie every Wednesday night for two hours. The Salvation Army offers its auditorium to the group free of charge.

The local choir was started in 1998 and has members from across the region, some as far south as Aurora and as far north as Wasaga Beach.

“Anyone can sign up, they just need to do a background check,” said manager Danielle Bélanger of Bradford.

Bélanger gives her time each week to lead the Chorus group as director. She was a member for 15 years before assuming the role of leader of the group before being temporarily disbanded due to the pandemic.

“Our band’s camaraderie and connectedness is so strong that our first rehearsal felt like we never stopped,” she said. “Their sound was beautiful and they sang together, that’s how we promote ourselves. Community and police on the same beat.”

There is also an audition process that must take place before being accepted into the choir. Interested participants are invited to attend their first rehearsal to see if they like it.

“See if you like the vibe; if this is a band you want to be in,” Belanger said.

Then there is an audition process, where Belanger will give interested parties a piece of music to rehearse and play.

Each year, the choir performs at the Ontario Police Memorial and the Canadian Police and Peace Officers Memorial Service in Toronto and Ottawa, and at various venues such as long-term care homes, communities of retirees and various religious and community events, fundraisers and fairs.

The group is already rehearsing for the National Memorial show in Ottawa at the end of the month, which typically brings together between 200 and 250 OPP choir members from across the province to sing on Parliament Hill.

“To see the family members of the police tenders who lost their lives, there is not a dry eye (in the crowd),” said member Donna Van Rossum, who is part of the Barrie OPP Chorus for 22 years, with her husband Hermann.

Donna helps coordinate all of the group’s performances and events, while Herman helps set up the music.

“We were the first to come who had no affiliation with the OPP,” Donna said. “I like music, I like to sing.”

“I like to make people happy when you sing for them, and that’s our main goal,” Herman added.

Deanna Tilley from Barrie is one of the newest members to join just before the pandemic hit. She said she was a little nervous to come back after such a long break.

“But excited to perform,” she said.

“We look forward to the next Police Memorial in Ottawa and then continue to build for the season ahead,” Belanger said.

Currently, the Chorus has 16 members and is looking to join others. Ideally, Bélanger would like to build the group to around 35 members.

The Choir is open to anyone aged 16 or over who is interested in supporting the Choir’s motto: “police and community – on the same beat”.

All members are issued an official OPP uniform to wear while performing.

To learn more about the Chorus and how to join, visit their website here.

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